Guest Rant: Chef Rails Against Contemporary Restaurant Trends

San Francisco chef Joyce Goldstein has some sharp words for fellow chefs and some of the city’s hot restaurants.

Tiny morsels arranged with tweezers – SFGate.

“…those damned dots of sauce.”

“…comma cuisine…”

These trends haven’t taken strong root in Costa Rica yet.

And, in the form of dissent, a meal at San Francisco’s Aziza last year featured one of those “comma menus” and remains one of my most memorable meals ever.

Rant #2: ICT Announces Restaurant Ratings

Today, the ICT (Costa Rican Tourism Institute) published a full-page announcement in the daily La Nacion granting 1 to 5 Fork ratings to a number of restaurants. (Actually, they only published 3 Forks and up). According to the announcement the forks were awarded for “quality and customer satisfaction”. I’m not really sure how they came up with their ratings, but I can assure you their criteria are quite different from mine. In the very short 5 Fork category, you’ll find high-end entries like Le Monestere (considerably overrated in my view) and Bacchus (a damn fine restaurant) alongside the Mexican-Guatemalan chain Los Cebollines and the truly mediocre Pan-Asian Villa Bonita.

The not-much-longer 4 Fork category, runs the gamut from Key Largo/Del Mar (you heard me) and Tacontento to Don Wang and Tony Roma’s.

I’ll be damned if I can find any rhyme or reason… And there are so many omissions as to make the whole thing meaningless.

While the Inka Grill in Paseo de los Flores gets 4 Forks, the rest of the Inka Grill chain restaurants get just three. Other 3 Fork restaurants include everything from Hooters, Pizza Hut, Rostipollos, and Denny’s to Matsuri (one of my favorite sushi restaurants) and La Divina Comida (a very good Peruvian fusion restaurant).

So what are your 5 Fork or 5 Star choices? I’ll be letting you in on mine pretty soon, once the book is ready….

Rant #1: Televisions

In my best Jerry Seinfeld voice: “What’s the deal with televisions in restaurants?”  This ranks high on my list of pet peeves for Costa Rican dining. People, unless you’re running a Sports Bar or sport-themed restaurant, take out, turn-off and get over the TV. Possible exceptions include funky, beachfront surfer joints showing big wave riding videos. Can you think of others?  I remember giving a pass to the original La Divina Comida, a high-end Peruvian-fusion restaurant, which had a high-hung flat screen showing Food Network without sound, although my dining companion was nonetheless appalled. I can’t think of many other suitable situations.

Far too many supposedly “fine dining” and everyday restaurants have televisions blaring. I’ve seen it in sushi bars, pizza parlors, hotel restaurants and simple sodas alike. People, learn how to maintain a conversation over a meal (and this means you need to put down that cell phone).